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Book Summary: The Art of the Start – Written by Guy Kawasaki
The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything – Written by Guy Kawasaki Starting a business that scales is not an easy task. In this book, Guy gives us a guideline to follow which is very useful. I have not pitched investors in our software company because we have been funding our R&D through profit and cash flow. Regardless, we have two other ideas that may require funding, intrigued me to read this book. It is much more than just pitching for money. This guidebook will help keep your eye on the ball and make sure you don’t end up as part of the 50% stat. The 50% stat says that all start-up businesses fail in the first 5 years. I am sure nobody knows that better than Guy Kawasaki since he invests in start-ups.
Why is this important to me? I always want to ask this question as if I am sitting in your shoes. I don’t want to waste your time. One thing is for certain. Most Americans today need to make more money. Thus this book is a must read for you if you are creating the next Facebook or just starting a part time business. If you look back in history, families could survive on one income. Then both parents started working and actually did well. As usual, expenses always rise to meet income thus both parents had to work. Today, 44 million Americans are on food stamps. This is almost 15% of the population. A guide book like Art of the Start will help you create your own wealth and not become a casualty of war. We are living in the greatest wealth transfer in history. The dollar has lost value since president Nixon took us off the gold standard and people who thought they could retire have gotten taken to the cleaners by the bankers on Wall Street gambling with derivatives. It is up to us to dictate our own destiny and Guy’s book will help in that quest.
The Art of the Start consists of 5 sections. For the sake of time I will touch on an area in each section.
1. Causation – Guy has coined the term GIST to mean Great Ideas for Starting Things. This in essence is your compelling WHY for what you do. The Three Stooges made their last television series with Curly in 1945. This is over 66 years ago. That is longevity when you are doing something you love. In our business we sell to public safety organizations. Our compelling vision is “Seconds Save Lives”. We create great software to help dispatch centers save lives. Sure we make money doing it but that is secondary to the “Cause”. Doing something you love that has meaning is the essences of GIST.
2. Articulation – The art of Pitching is critical to the survival of any organization. Showing and telling do not work. Business owners have to pitch at all levels. They need to sell their ideas internally, they need to pitch new clients and they need to pitch the best talent. I must confess that I always thought I was a pretty good salesman because I made it my mission to ask the prospects questions and have a 70/30 relationship with them. This means that they talk 70% of the time and I talk 30%. This allowed me to understand their needs. One thing that I needed work on was the Pitching part. Guy touches on this in detail in the book and one book that really solidifies the method was written by Carmine Gallo. It is called Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. Following this new method has allowed my team to increase their sales by 100%. Some of the techniques include 10/20/30 rule. Basically this means 10 PowerPoint slides, 20 minutes and 30 point font. The KISS principle is critical (Keep it simple stupid). Have you ever sat through PowerPoint hell? Think about it for a moment – you have slides with tiny font and big buzz words that only make the presenter feel smart while the audience feels stupid. This is not the way to go.
3. Activation – This is the “doing” section. There will be points in time where you need to watch the money and count the pencils and there are other times when you have to pay to recruit the best talent. This can be a paradox but based on where your business is will dictate what you do and how you invest your capital. Raising capital is an art form that I personally need work on. Guy profiles what to do and it is so logical that I am surprised people miss it. One thing that stands out here is be realistic in your numbers. Don’t say that there are three billion people in China and if we get 1% of them to spend $50 then we will be a $1.5 Billion dollar company. This is not realistic because getting 1% is really hard. The better way to do it is to allocate the capital you are asking for in terms of sales and marketing. Are you going to sell direct or indirect? How many sales calls can each sales person make? What is there closing ratio? What is the average deal size? What is the expected life time value of each new client? Understanding these questions will allow you to scale effectively and more importantly, your investors will believe you. Giving realistic short presentations will put you ahead of 80% of the deals VC’s look at.
4. Proliferation – In this section, Guy talks about Branding, Partnering and Rainmaking. If you are selling in the B2B (Business to Business) market place then they only buy for three reasons and they are to increase revenue, reduce costs and mitigate risk. That is it. Thus if you partner with other organizations then those partnerships have to equate to doing one of the three things. If it does not
then it is marketing people wasting time creating useless press releases that chat about partnerships. In reality most partnerships during the dot com craze where mere PR ploys that never made any money.
5. Obligation – Emerson summarized that if you want more than give more. Giving back to society pays dividends. A great quote in the book from Samuel Johnson sums this up – “The measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”
The Art of the Start is an excellent business book. If you are interested in building a business full time or part time then I suggest you read it. I can tell you that the presentation outline discussed in this book works and it has increased our business significantly.
I hope you have found this short video summary useful. The key to any new idea is to work it into your daily routine until it becomes habit. Habits form in as little as 21 days. One thing you can take away from this book is “Say no to PowerPoint hell”. Evaluate your presentations and if you are reading the slides as you present then you are doing it wrong. Evaluate your sales team as well. Good trial lawyers do not read their closing statements. For them to win they have to help the jury discover that they are right. This is more about being prepared then it is about winging it and simply reading slides.
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